There is an old moviemaking adage that states, ‘if an animal is in the shot, people will look at the animal’. All the millions of people whose attention is grabbed by cat videos or memes of animals of any kind seem to have either chosen to forget this rule or they never knew it in the first place. It is part of what we are as humans, to watch other animals is instinctual, especially if the animal in question is not afraid of us, like a great white shark, a large bear or a big cat.
President Utah Green was not only a big cat, but she had a telepathic-AI-critter in her bra (she is a cat she has otherwise no need for a bra). To state that the first female POTUS commanded attention everywhere she went, was not like anything the United States had ever experienced before. In the White House not only did everyone stand up everywhere she went, but all eyes fixed on her, stopping what they were doing for at least a few seconds. Like a permanent wave in a sports stadium crowd — all eyes watching the ball.
President Green was not fast-talking, in fact, she rarely spoke and when she did she said simple things, like. “The three branches of government must work together and function separately. While Congress is making rules, I will go talk with the people. Gain consensus for best action plans to make.” Tho she didn’t often say it out loud, when she said action plans, she meant, plans to postpone the apocalypse.
“I have an announcement. Let’s make modern plastic garbage extinct, not life on the planet.” President Green said this then wrote on the center of the white-board-wall in the oval office in all caps.
MAKE MODERN PLASTIC GARBAGE EXTINCT! NOT LIFE ON THE PLANET!
She turned around from writing and said, “How are we going to do this? Universal Job Training for Needed Vocations. ” The President waved a paw at the center white-board directly across from her desk where the action plan read, — U in HUMAN. Her announcement was to start action that had already been in the works for months.
The next day in the situation room President Green stared at a virtual meeting wall, 5 screens wide and 3 screens high, her focus moving, following the discussion like a cat watching birds. The chief of staff on-duty and a row of administrative secretaries were also at the table. The virtual meeting was attended predominantly by corporate industry giants in control of billions of product items and their packaging. All in this conference meeting focused on how to solve plastic garbage. “We need to get this work done yesterday! To make this serious consequential shift away from non-renewable life clogging plastic to renewable plant-based packaging requires a multi-industry shift that can only be accomplished at the production level.”
During her campaign, she had let her donors know that the only way they could support her was to publicly make it known that their campaign contributions would go to Universal jobs training programs and industry-specific paid trade schools for needed vocations. Government job training programs have an abysmal historical rate of success. Programs that succeed all have one key component in common. The work needs to be done. Most of the proposed trade schools were industry-specific, on the job, paid internships to facilitate the transition from the old post-industrial to the new human-first green-economy. Other work was to earn certificates for skilled trades, to train folks for careers organized by unions, not “jobs”.
Some of that money was already hard at work in a few areas that were ready to go without needing much additional infrastructure and planning. Like converting from water and pesticide-intensive cotton to hemp fabrics or from plastic to American native bamboo (hill cane genus Arundinaria) toothbrushes, writing pens, and straws, etc... Other sectors of the economy were not so easy.
Another example of universal job training for work that needed doing was ‘Healing the Digital Divide’ you can set up the infrastructure and design the Universal Standard for text communication but until everyone grade-school age to senior citizens learns how to operate their LED tablets to read the new digital newspapers, navigate the menu to stream the local sports channel, or understand what a wiki is and that they can not only read, — but comment, communicate and contribute on the new interweb network, there’s a lot of work that needs doing.
Public libraries set up ‘New Free Public Internet’ classes and help rooms to get people set up and from there to offer life-long learning opportunities for retirees. For most, it’s easy once you know how to do it.
Saving the world is like that too. It’s not any single action that will help to shift the balance towards a healthy planet, it’s everything. Each of us has to understand how all systems work together, not isolated. All material on our small finite planet are connected, there is no “away” when you throw something away. Once aware of where stuff comes from and where it goes, then we need to be aware of how we can best contribute.
Start at one point and follow it through a phase-shift from the well-source, harvesting of the crop or mining of the ore, from the Earth to the final product. One pile of stuff in the world at a time.
Imagine your own current-resident junk-mail. It’s been estimated that each American with a mailbox is mailed about 1.5 trees worth of unsolicited paper, approximately 600 million tons a year is printed. Very little of this paper is ever even opened or read; less than 20% according to some studies. Why do they keep mailing it? Not questioning those seeking advertisements for their businesses or services, but the Post Office. Why do they deliver the weight of all that paper junk mail? Answer: Just like the old News Papers, ad revenue is the USPS’s bread and butter. Fact, USPS marketing mail volume in 2018 was 77.3 billion pieces.
For the US Postal Services to survive the end of junk-mail a digital branch of the USPS would need to post local grocery store flyers and postcards for sales and events all sorted by local area like only the Post Office can. Over 77.3 billion worth all carefully formatted so people can find what is available to buy in their local stores, who are serving in or running for election in their local government and all the events happening in the community where they live, from state fairs to poetry readings — everything happening.
So? What do people need to do in all this? Learn to navigate the new digital sales and events calendars, and generate enough clicks to completely replace junk-mail as a source of revenue for the USPS.
This is a lot of detailed routinely updated data. This is part of what the tech geeks and the military were working on to heal the digital divide. (see Episode 23.)
When the need for Junk-mail has been replaced in each neighborhood, then that 600 million tons of paper pulp can be used to remove plastics from perishable food packaging, replace plastic tubs with compostable paper, milk carton or Chinese food folded containers for everything from applesauce to yogurt.
Millions of tons of junk-mail paper seems like a lot, but it’s not enough to completely replace all the use-once-throw-away plastic-packaging.
Also, don’t say, just recycle the junk-mail, perishable food should be packaged in first-use-pulp, the recycled pulp is for outer boxes of products not the packaging surfaces in direct contact with food. Why not keep using plastic tubs and plastic bags? We may open less than 20% of junk-mail but we recycle less than 10% of plastic. We need to use plastic only for durable goods, and only if we can’t make it with something else other than plastic. Please see the plastic gyres in all of the Earth’s oceans if you wonder why. Or search for micro-plastics, if you dare. Critics will say most of the plastic in the oceans comes from Asia. But, America having a smaller population than China or India, is actually the producer of far more plastic per person. And we have the best odds of solving use-once throw-away plastic. The rest of the world can then adopt the best strategies as we figure it out and join in, or better yet, compete with us to end the production of plastic garbage first.
Again, sorting the data and doing the math, 600 million tons of paper pulp that used to be made into junk-mail isn’t going to cover all the ‘applesauce, milk, hummus, and yogurt’ (all food sold in plastic) consumed in the US daily. But, such a shift from junk-mail to food packaging, pound for pound, could solve 600 million tons worth of our plastic problem.
In the US we produce 75 to 100 billion cardboard boxes. 90% of all shipping is wrapped in corrugated boxes. The recycling rate for cardboard is better; around 75 to 80% of cardboard is recycled. But, if most of those billions of boxes were durable up-cycled reusable corrugated plastic shipping crates, flattened and handed back to the shipper, then the US would have enough pulp to replace plastic in ALL of the plastic packaging when combined with plant-based wax coating and other cellulose crate material.
You do the math and prove me wrong. Best of all, cardboard food packaging, bamboo, corn, rice starch food-trays and plant-sourced containers tainted with food are compostable or could be made into fuel pellets.
This entire multi-industry shift is why President Green and a group of her staff were in a meeting with the corporations responsible for producing America’s garbage.
A paper towel “king” was meeting with makers of cloth kitchen towels discussing nation-wide seasonal-line design contests for napkins and an assortment of non-wood-pulp kitchen towels. So they could give up their pulp production factories to a designer of new dairy product packaging and cheese wrappers.
The major cola brands had agreed to shift away from plastic soda bottles to aluminum cans in their machines and plastic juice bottles to paper juice boxes for kids, and non-plastic straws and lids on fountain drink cups. As well as taking a step back to classic glass bottles by carefully shortening the distribution distances of their high-end products. Besides the 75 mile legal limit for shipping of bottled water, when enacted, the new law would decapitate the cheap plastic bottled water industry.
There were lively discussions about refillable shelf tubs with silicon seals of all types for dry foods: chips, crackers, and cereal. Air-tight sealed shipping bins that doubled as display cases on store shelves, returned to the bakery empty to be refilled and sealed.
President Green knew she technically didn’t need to be in any of these conversations and said very little. The telepathic-AI-critter reported to her conflicts they were having with proprietary packaging rights and battles over prime shelf space in the markets. The only reason she was there at all was to make this conversation public. Promises to do-the-right-thing to mitigate the damage of climate change, open for all the world to see via streamed videos or reading off of the official transcripts. The corporations were there because they didn’t want the shopping public to be surprised when the plastic tub of their favorite product was now an unbleached brown-paper-box with a colorful label where the plastic tub or plastic bag used to be.
“We could run an ad campaign of a people preparing for championship sports parties, they flatten the box and use a spatula to slide the dip into the bowl on the chip tray. “Wow, it’s a snap! Now so much easier to refill the snack tray than getting the last bit of dip out of an old-style plastic tub!”
Another ad’ rep got into the conversation. “Yes, and then cut to happy fish or seagulls saying. No more ring around the collar!” To an animated seagull with its neck stuck in plastic trash. They laughed.
President Green glanced over the faces of the west wing staffers in attendance, her chief of staff taking notes of promises made by the big corporations on her digital tablet.
“I think our work is done here today! Everyone is welcome to continue and make recorded meeting video notes as they come up with new ideas and suggestions.” She stood and everyone stood, (including many of those in front of cameras on video chat across the country) and a lot of people clapped as the President made her exit from the meeting. “I thank you all very sincerely for your time.” She said and waved a paw at the cameras.
The next story section gets a little more serious, Un-Un-Cat, Episode 26. — The M in HUMAN.